I was first diagnosed with bipolar disorder in 2004. I experience my first major psychotic break while I was deployed to Iraq in 2005. Upon returning home and relating what I experienced while deployed to my therapist, that’s when I learned that I had bipolar 1.
For anyone who lives with the illness, I know how you feel. You’re not alone.
For years, I remained naive about the nature of my mental illness. I don’t think I fully accepted my diagnosis until 2018. Being in denial all those years, led to needless suffering on my part and forced my close family to experience things they shouldn’t have had to.
I started this blog to help others who struggle with mental illness to have a friend in the fight and ample resources to cope, manage, and heal.
With the right resources, it’s possible to go from disorder to INorder. I’m living proof! Not in a “look at me” kind of way, but in a “walk with me” kind of way.
Phase 1: The Coping/Survival Phase
Many of us remain stuck in the coping phase in full-fledged survival mode. This is because most of us either need some sort of medical intervention or don’t seek help when we’re in the middle of a crisis. Very few of us seek help when we feel okay.
The first and most vital stepping going from disorder to INorder is acceptance.
Unfortunately, many of us struggle with acceptance because we associate accepting our illness with laying down, giving in, or throwing up a white flag of surrender. This is I remained naive about my illness for so long.
Acceptance leads to understanding and understanding increases self-awareness.
A lack of understanding in regards to the nature of what we struggle with and are up against robs us of copy mechanisms and strategies. Like a boat without a sail we’re out a sea hoping the waves will bring us back to shore.
It need not be.
There are no shortage of resources to aid us in managing our mental illness so we can escape survival mode and increase our quality of life.
Phase 2: Disorder to INorder/Management Phase
After acceptance, self-awareness is vital because we can drift and slip between phases. I still catch myself slipping, getting complacent, and blowing through caution lights when I should know better. Like the Brian Mcknight song… then I start back at one.
When we do, it isn’t the end of the world. We need to show ourselves some grace. Reminding ourselves that it’s impossible to fail when we refuse to quit. We’re not aiming for perfection, we’re aiming for progress.
In my experience, what doesn’t get measured doesn’t get managed. This is why keeping a journal is extremely important. By documenting how we feel from day to day it’s easier to catch ourselves when we’re drifting.
Writing down how you felt and how your day went before bed is usually most effective, because sometimes we don’t have an accurate gauge of how we truly feeling in the morning. For me, I like to do gratitude exercises in the morning and summerize how my day went and mood monitoring at night.
At the end of each week, review each days’ entries and see if you can pick of on mood patterns that might indicate you are slipping into depression or mania. Then implement the coping mechanisms and strategies that will prevent emotional climax or free-fall.
If you aren’t noticing anything, it doesn’t hurt to check in with close friends or family to see if they’re noticing anything you may be overlooking.
In the case that you’re sensing that you’re slipping but none of your resources are working, ask for help. Asking for help isn’t a sign of weakness, it’s a sign of wisdom.
For me personally, I would say that I spend most of my time in phase 2 (80%) and occasinally have to revisit phase one (5%). When I’m managing well, I’m able to maintain emotional equilibrium and do deep healing work (15%).
Phase 3: Maintaining Mental Health/Healing Phase
There isn’t a ton I can say about this phase because it is very personal and relative. Health and healing for you make look different than it does for me.
What I CAN do is share resources that have been useful for me. I’ll narrow them down to the ones that have been essential in my practice.
- Knowing my chronotype/biorhythm: The Power of When by Michael Breus, PhD (the Sleep Doctor). Discover your chronotype HERE.
- The Pill of Prevention: Understand that pharmacological interventions are great when we’re in crisis, but there effectiveness wanes over time. Take your meds, but understand that lifestyle changes are more important than a “magic” pill.
- Hydration: Our brains are 70-75% water. hydrare (16 ounces) when you first wake-up. Drink at least 64 ounces of water per day. Use flavored, b-vitamin additives for taste.
- Know when and when NOT to drink caffeine: The Power of When will tell you think based on your chronotype (I’m a Wolf, how bout’ you?). Instead of drinking coffee first thing in the morning, I have my coffee at 11am. I no longer have caffeine induced morning jitters and am more productive. I also don’t drink caffeine post 3pm. If I do, it will make it hard for me to get to sleep.
- Healthy Fats: Our brains are 60% fat. Our brains need healthy fats to function properly. Omega 3’s via diet or supplementation are vital. I recommend THESE.
- Vitamin D Intake: Alot of times our mood shifts have a weather element to it. Make sure to get out in the sun for some natural vitamin D. A morning stroll is helful, because exercise is a good idea. If you also tend to get sick (like I do) when seasons change. Drink some Emergence-C Immune+ daily. It has vitamins C, D, and Zinc.
- Gratitude: It never hurts to focus on things to be grateful for. Wherever focus goes, energy flows, and what we focus on expands, so we need to steer our minds in healthy places.
- Breathing: Deep nose breathing something I do periodically throughout each day to induce a natural release of healthy dopamine into my system.
Share some resources that have helped you maintain mental health in the comments below.
I’d love to hear from you! If you have questions, would just like to say hi, or have a good joke to share, feel free to reach out to me at email@example.com. When time permits, I personally respond to each and every email I receive.
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